New Year’s resolutions can transform your future.

We take time to make them but then why do we break them?

This year, focus on staying resolute to achieve meaningful change.

What have you decided to improve this year? Are you going to be slimmer, fitter, richer and happier? It is great to see so many people motivated to change their lives for better this year. I would like to share some ideas with you to help you to reach your goals and maintain your lifestyle changes throughout the whole the year.

For some reason, many of us struggle to achieve our annual goals. We all start enthusiastically the first week of January, but by March we don’t even remember if we made any New Year’s resolutions or not.

At this stage we don’t even look for solutions to our failed resolutions any more. We just resign ourselves to failure: “Well, I tried,” “I knew it wouldn’t work anyway,” “I don’t care any more,” or, “I just love my double-choc cookies too much”!

Lack of perseverance might make us feel disappointed, guilty and resentful. Soon we forget we wanted to make any changes at all. Consider what can be done to avoid these pitfalls. Make this year different.

Where you are is a good place to start

If you didn’t decide what you wanted to change in your life on New Year’s Eve, you can still do it today. Just take a moment, and reflect on where you are. If you could change one thing in your life for better, what would it be?

It might be a good idea to allocate some quiet time and write down exactly what you would like to achieve. You might start with a general goal: “I want to be happy… ” This is great! Let’s break it down. What is it that makes you happy? Think big and small, write it all down, include everything – from big projects to small ones. What can you start doing today? Plan for the year; plan for each month and every day do something that makes you happy.

Take a minute to think about your past years, and analyse what prevented you from achieving your goals. Plan around particularly tempting times during the year, when you might succumb to stress or apathy. If you tend to overindulge with ice-cream when you feel stressed, learn some other stress-management techniques – organise your day, prepare ahead for busy periods, allow yourself to relax during down times, home-cook your meals, buy healthy snacks, learn relaxation and mindfulness, exercise, or just go for a walk.

Remember, time invested in planning will pay off, and allow you to feel more in control throughout the year.

Just keep on doing it

It is important to be realistic with your goals. Usually it takes around 21 days to establish a new habit, and a bit longer to make sure it grows stronger and becomes ‘second nature’. New lifestyle routines are often vulnerable to external influences or internal factors that are difficult to control. So we need to be flexible and adapt to ever-changing circumstance.

For example, if you are establishing your new fitness regime and going to a gym after work you may feel derailed when suddenly your office is relocated and you must work longer hours. However, you can adapt. Join another gym closer to work, exercise on weekends, or buy a fitness DVD. Be creative and don’t let external factors that change your circumstance prevent you from achieving your goals.

Internal factors may be harder to detect and address. For example, in the second week of January, you might find yourself in a local shopping centre buying groceries and arguing internally, “Nutella is not technically chocolate, it is a hazelnut spread, so I will buy it instead of a chocolate muffin. It means I still have not broken my New Year’s resolution to avoid snacking on chocolates.”

It is important to be aware of our negative and unhelpful thoughts. What is happening right now? Just stop for a second and check what is going on – maybe you are tired, frustrated, bored or angry? Don’t dwell on the feeling, just redirect your attention at this moment, go home and revise the plan. If your plan does not accommodate your changing moods in situations where difficult emotions are overwhelming, then you need to re-think your plan. Next time you are tired, frustrated, bored or angry, do something else rather than perfecting the art of convincing yourself that half a cookie does not count as a dessert.

Think about activities that are not compatible with eating or shopping for sugary snacks. You can get a massage, catch up with a friend, go to a yoga class, or join a choir (it will be really hard to eat and sing at the same time).

Enjoy your new life

Surprisingly, people sometimes sabotage themselves once they have almost achieved their goals. They don’t have any cravings, they are enjoying the benefits of newly acquired lifestyle habits and then they think, “I feel in control, I will just give in this one time.”

If you find that you often relapsed in the past, and it took you a long time to get in control again, you might want to think twice before you compromise all your efforts. Is giving in really worth it? Some experts suggest that we sabotage ourselves because we are afraid to succeed. We gravitate towards familiar feelings of failure. Some of us don’t believe we deserve success and happiness.

Have courage to follow your dream. Remember that you decided to change your life this year because previously you were not happy with it. Be your own best friend; let yourself be happy this year.